Regents criticize University of Iowa's in-state recruiting efforts

Call it a 'significant problem'

(The Gazette)
(The Gazette)

The University of Iowa needs to do a better job of recruiting in-state students and welcoming prospective families to campus, Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter told UI staff Monday.

During a UI Staff Council meeting Wednesday, Rastetter addressed a controversial proposal to change the way state dollars are allocated to Iowa’s three public universities that could take millions from the UI campus.

The proposal would allocate 60 percent of state appropriations based on resident enrollment. Such a change would favor Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, which currently receive fewer state dollars annually than the UI but rely more heavily on in-state student tuition.

In fact, if state dollars were redistributed today based on the proposed formula, the UI would experience a hit of tens of millions of dollars. Rastetter stressed on Wednesday that the proposed performance-based funding model would not be rolled out over night but instead be implemented over a two- to four-year period.

And the task force has recommended capping the amount of money that could move from university to university each year to 1 to 2 percent of the 2013 budget. New funding metrics also will weigh research, graduate and professional student performance “heavier than what the committee recommended,” Rastetter said Monday.

But, he said, the regents want the UI to work harder to recruit in-state students.

“It’s a significant problem,” Rastetter said. “And we need your help fixing that.”

Polls questioning parents of prospective students who visited the multiple campuses in Iowa rank the UI third as far as experience and environment, according to Rastetter.

“As an Iowa grad, I’m bothered and disappointed by that,” he said. “The campus tour needs to be more welcoming.”

Rastetter said ISU and UNI work harder than the UI to recruit in-state students by following up with everyone who makes a visit and taking steps to incentivize them to attend.

“That doesn’t happen here,” he said.

The regents want to focus on educating Iowa students because, Rastetter said, “If we keep the best and the brightest here, chances are they will stay in state and contribute to the economy.”

With the funding metrics proposed to roll out over multiple years, Rastter said, the UI has an opportunity to respond to the incentives and keep its funding allocation from dipping much.

Rastetter praised ISU’s growing student body – it reported a larger enrollment than the UI this academic year for the first time since 1979 – and he said ISU has a higher percentage of students who accept invitations to attend than the UI.

“Parents don’t feel as welcome here on the tour as they do on the (ISU) tour,” Rastetter said. “There is a difference in the approach.”

Staff members questioned demographics of the programs offered at both schools, asking whether ISU is better suited for some in-state students. And UI staff asked whether there are enough Iowa high school graduates heading to college to allow all three universities to compete.

Regent President Pro-tem Katie Mulholland, who also is superintendent of schools for the Linn-Mar Community School District, said Iowa is seeing an increase in high schoolers headed to college, and the three public universities aren’t capturing all the available students.

“This is a wonderful education here,” she said. “So why aren’t we getting more?”

UI spokesman Joeseph Brennan on Wednesday afternoon said the UI appreciates the feedback.

“And we will work hard to improve our efforts,” he said.

In addition to allocating 60 percent of state appropriations based on resident enrollment, the proposed performance-based funding metrics would distribute 15 percent based on each university’s progress and attainment, 10 percent based on access, 5 percent based on job placement and continuation of education and another 10 percent would be up to the regents to decide.

The regents will formally discuss the proposal at its June board meeting.

They have asked for a review of Iowa’s funding model because it has not changed since 1945. Meanwhile, all but about 10 states now either are using performance metrics to fund public schools, transitioning to such a model or discussing doing so.

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